Health Update: HIV on the rise
By HEIZEL L. MAINAR
December 28, 2009, 6:04pm
As many Filipinos prepare to celebrate the unfolding of the year with a bang, another boom is on the offing, that is, the rapid and alarming boom of HIV infections in the country—the Department of Health’s (DoH) Registry on HIV and AIDS shows the rise in the incidence whereas 395 new HIV documented cases from January to September of last year increased to 549 for the same time period this year.
However, Joshua Formentera, President and CEO of Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI) shares that a series of intervention done last November 22, 27 and December 6 during the gay pride march yielded a result that is alarming and, as Formentera puts it, shocking.
The intervention was composed of doctors, nurses, people from the non-government organizations (NGOs) and private individuals who volunteered and set up a booth in places where people often go to party and have a good time. This time, the volunteers chose Malate in Manila for the free counseling and screening to party-goers who were mostly composed of men having sex with men or now called in a politically correct manner MSMs.
Using a rapid test kit, volunteers would be able to determine if the examined blood is reactive or non-reactive and as Formentera explains, “If the result (of the screening) shows reactive, there is something wrong with the blood but it does not necessarily meant that the person tested have HIV,” but adds, “Although there is no confirmatory testing yet, rapid testing (according to medical research) shows 99 percent accuracy.”
He says that the November 22nd intervention results to approximately 70 MSMs who availed of the voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and 13 were found reactive. The following week, November 27, 40 MSMs availed of the VCT and 5 were found reactive while during the gay pride march last December 6, out of 130, 13 were found reactive.
And he recounts that those who availed of the VCTs were initially scared, “Makikita mo sa mukha eh, there is a sort of panic but then again, once these people consumed alcohol, their fear disappeared, a kind of macho image.”
The alarming result is not yet a part of the DoH Registry and according to him, the number could increase 500 times over for the coming years. “In 2007, there is a ratio of 1 to every 1,000 (that is 1 HIV positive in 1,000 who were tested), now ratio is 5 to 1,000… and that is very alarming and looking at the sustainability of treatment for ARV, it is really not enough because there is no large chunk of budget allocated for the treatment.”
He explains further that those were found reactive were in Manila alone, “What if this was conducted in Quezon City, Makati and other metropolitan areas around the country?” he asks flabbergasted. Currently, he explains that there is a paradigm shift in the practice of intervention for if before, NGOs and other agencies concerned with the decrease and management of HIV observes “go, come here to us” attitude, now, they are the ones who go to the vulnerable groups of most at risk populations like MSMs. Also, he says that before, most of those recorded HIV incidence came from the sector of migrant workers but since the turn of 2009, HIV infections spread to the key population wherein everyone could be at risk.
As an answer to this distressing increase, Formentera explains that “Education is fundamental in achieving our goals like addressing the stigma and discrimination (associated with HIV/AIDS) but also to prevent infection in the country.” However, he reveals that other government agencies should be proactive in the issues of HIV for DoH is just one agency and needed other agencies to fully implement the programs on HIV and AIDS.
He explains that information should be dynamic and should be disseminated from national to local and vice versa. “If failure to educate the young people especially the area of the Department of Education (DepED) there will be a failure in putting in place the study of HIV and AIDS in the curriculum,” and notes that those new HIV cases now belongs to the average age group of 19 to 24, the more reason for DepED to act since the agency is a part of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).
“The DoH has done many things already but they should not be left alone. They should be supported from different angles by other government agencies and our society, community, political leaders and church.” He explains that the church plays an important role in giving out information and encouraging people to work together for he concludes, “HIV is everybody’s business.”
Currently, PAFPI and seven other NGOs like Pinoy Plus Association (PPA), Empowered of Iloilo, Mindanao Advocates, Crossbreeds of Bacolod, Cebu Plus and Babae Plus formed the National Association for Filipinos Living with HIV and AIDS (NAFWA) in the Philippines. This is to ensure that national programs are cascaded to the grass root level and will hasten the programs on advocacy and education.
[article source: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/236059/health-update-hiv-rise]